Chandler Smith is third in Bandolero Nationals points standing heading into Saturday’s National Championship race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
When, where: Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton
Schedule: Practice sessions on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as well as on Saturday before the start of qualifying sessions from 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Following qualifying, heat races for all Legends and Bandolero divisions will begin at 3 p.m. with 20-lap feature races scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start.
HAMPTON — Chandler Smith has won 16 straight races on the quarter-mile “Thunder Ring” at Atlanta Motor Speedway over a four-day stretch.
The Bandolero driver from Talking Rock will test himself against some strong competition from across the country when the Hampton track plays host to the Bandolero Nationals on Saturday.
In preparation for the one-day championship races, track officials are anticipating several drivers in town for the weekly Thursday Thunder event to get some time on the track.
“People say this is my playground, but I don’t see any swing sets,” Smith said. “I enjoy racing here, and I’ve had some success.”
Last week, Smith picked up fives wins in as three days between Atlanta Motor Speeway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I know he is worn out,” Smith’s grandmother Linda McGhee said after winning the Bandits division race at AMS on last week.
All divisions that compete during Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder racing series will be part of the Bandolero Nationals. In addition to Bandits, Beginner Bandits and Outlaw Bandolero divisions, the Pro, Semi-Pro, Masters and Young Lions Legends car divisions will also be part of the event schedule.
A pair of Thursday Thunder drivers are defending Bandolero National champions. Smith won last year’s Bandits title while Stockbridge’s Jensen Jorgensen claimed the Outlaws crown.
“We are thrilled to once again play host to the zMax Bandolero Nationals,” said Brandon Hutchison, vice president of Events at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “With some of the toughest competitors from around the country planning to run, it should be a great weekend of racing.”
Drivers say defending the home track will be a challenge.
“I’m pretty excited about competing in my second national championship,” said Stockbridge’s Connor Younginer. “Charlotte has a lot of competitors, but Atlanta is a tough place to win at. It is great that it is here, because I will have a lot of family and friends out watching.”
Said Jorgensen: “You really don’t want anyone coming in from the outside winning on your track. There are some good drivers across the country. I’m looking forward to all the racing this week.”
Hutchison said having a local driver win would be special.
“It is always great to see our local guys do well,” he said. “These Georgia drivers will have their work cut out for them. They better come ready to drive.”